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June 14th, 2011 6:06 pm
MediChoice, not “Premium Support”

Deroy Murdock has a great column up this week. He credits my wise friend Jim Guirard, veteran of many a battle on Capitol Hill, for proposing better marketing language for Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal (or variations thereof).

Jim Guirard, long-time chief of staff to the late Sen. Russell Long (D., La.), runs the TrueSpeak Institute (TrueSpeak.org). He advises the GOP to market “MediChoice.” Unlike the head-scratching that “premium support” inspires, MediChoice signals that Republicans would give seniors choice in medical coverage. Just as the GI Bill helps veterans pay tuition at schools that match their interests, MediChoice would help future Medicare recipients (now 54 or younger) buy coverage that suits their circumstances.

Guirard urges Republicans to call today’s Medicare system “MediCrash.” The Democrats’ policy — snatching $520 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare and pretending that the program is the platonic form of fiscal health — invites financial catastrophe. By Sept. 30, 2020, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts, Medicare’s Trust Fund will be “exhausted.” Republicans should reiterate that Democrats — not the greedy, granny-killing GOP — perpetrated a half-trillion-dollar heist against Medicare’s coffers to underwrite Obamacare. Democrats pitifully refuse to do anything to prevent this calamity. What will their negligence yield in just over nine years? The CBO predicts: MediCrash.

Note, in the Murdock column, his photo at the bottom of a potential MediChoice notice that every senior citizen would receive.  Talk about bringing home to them the essential idea that THEY and nobody else controls their choice of a health-care plan!  Great idea.

In the debate last night, Rick Santorum made the excellent point that what Ryan proposes is what ALREADY is working, in popular fashion, in the otherwise problematic Medicare Part D.  If seniors can make such an individual-option plan work for prescription drugs, why not for their whole health-care coverage?

I noted the same analogy here, back on May 5. As I also explained:

[B]ecause of very similar, consumer-based, market-oriented provisions, has cost the government far less money than projected while costing consumers remarkably less in premiums than even the most optimistic number-crunchers expected. In short, the experience of Medicare Part D suggests that Ryan is hardly being outlandish to say that giving control back to consumers in a market-based system can save money without harming benefits – and thus preserve Medicare for future generations.

Now, back to Murdock. As he noted, Ryan’s plan is hardly radical:

Republicans should remind mewling Democrats that economists in liberal thinks tanks came up with the idea in the first place. The Brookings Institution’s Henry J. Aaron and the Urban Institute’s Robert Reischauer fathered “premium support” in 1995.

Former senator John Breaux (D., La.) promoted this reform as co-chairman of President Clinton’s bipartisan Medicare-overhaul commission…. Former senator Bob Kerrey (D., Neb.) echoed Breaux. As he told Reuters in May 1999: “You’re much better off letting 50 million people make decisions on their own than having [Washington] decide things from the top down.”

Santorum was right to take up the gantlet on this issue last night (and earlier), and Newt Gingrich is incredibly wrongheaded to run away from it.  Meanwhile, with some smart use of language, as per Jim Guirard, MediChoice might be a real political winner.

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